One of the flying car projects that appeared to be the closest to becoming a reality won’t be getting off the ground after all. That’s because Kitty Hawk has decided to pull the plug on the Flyer after five years of hard work.
The decade-old company, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has officially shut down its ultralight flying car programme, it announced in a statement published on its website on Wednesday. Flyer president Alex Roetter and Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun said the organisation will now turn its efforts on a previously secret all-electric aircraft, the Heaviside.
While the Flyer was introduced to the public in 2017, Kitty Hawk had been working on it for the last half-decade. The latest version, a single-seat eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft) made its debut in 2018. Weighing just 250 pounds, the personal aircraft was designed to be flown by anyone, with the company claiming it only required two hours of training.
Despite building 111 different prototypes and totaling over 25,000 crewed and uncrewed test flights, the company said it was never able to figure out how to turn the project into a viable business. Despite this, Kitty Hawk now intends to put the knowledge gained from the Flyer towards the development of future aircrafts—like the Heaviside, which will now be the company’s primary focus.
“Since Flyer began, more powerful eVTOL vehicles have been invented, such as our own Heaviside plane, which has a range of 100 miles, speeds of up to 180 mph, and the ability to fly over cities,” the company said in the statement. “Going forward, we are doubling down on Heaviside as our primary platform. But we would never have gotten here without launching and learning from Flyer, and the amazing team of people who built and operated it.”
First unveiled to the public last year, the Heaviside is a more capable aircraft than the Flyer, and ultra-quiet, fast and can be flown and landed autonomously. As part of Wednesday’s announcement, Kitty Hawk is laying off 70 members of the Flyer team, some of whom will transferred to the new project, according to Tech Crunch. The company is also working with Boeing on the Cora, a two-seat eVTOL the two companies hope will be the cornerstone of an air taxi service.